My surprising love of the big city of Toronto

I’m not a big city fan much at all. There are some limited exceptions. I really loved my time basing out of London some last year and this year and hope that might a base again in the future. Cape Town is another big city I really love. As is Istanbul. Berlin is likely to be my base when I get back to Europe in a few months. But the list of larger cities that I really enjoy is a short one.

Toronto is now on that short list.

I was in Toronto recently for a travel blogging conference called TBEX. More importantly, I was there because the blogging group I am part of, Navigate Media Group, was hosting our second BlogHouse, which is a three day, hands-on blog training camp. The more experienced bloggers of our group hosted a dozen less experienced bloggers in our wonderful castle graciously provided by FlipKey and opened up the computers and taught them anything they wanted to know about travel blogging.

The 12 bloggers that we hosted were Megan from Meganotravels, Emma from An Opportune Moment, Lindsay from The Traveluster, Cindy from Points and Travel, Noah from Somewhere or Bust, Alouise from Traveler Ahoy, Melissa from Suitcase and Heels, Kay from The Kay Days, Stephanie from A Nerd At Large, Alana from Paper Planes, Keryn from Walking on Travels, and Mara from The Mother of all Trips.

It was a fantastic group — a bit too large for me to really get to know each of them as well as I would have liked, but a really impressive group of bloggers looking to take their blogs to the next level.

bloghouse toronto tbex

BlogHousers at work

The thing that I enjoy most about the whole BlogHouse experience is the reinvigorating effect on my work psyche. Travel blogging is a very new profession, so much so that my meager five years in it makes me one of the veterans. But although it is relatively new, there is no shortage of annoying, childish and unproductive infighting and bickering amongst its practitioners.

But these newer bloggers weren’t tainted by any of that. They came here, just as they did in the one we hosted last fall in Girona, with wide eyes and open hearts, just ready to learn.

I would like to do 3-4 of these a year, just to keep me focused on the good things that this profession is bringing to the world and to help me forget some of the things and people I need to put aside.

From the last BlogHouse, I ended up with an assistant and three contributing writers to this website. After this BlogHouse, it looks like I already have found another assistant for another project I am starting up and who knows what else will come of it. But regardless of any projects I will work on with these talented bloggers in the future, I learned a lot from spending three days with them and I am in their debt for them bringing a smile to my face and a bounce to my step.

toronto streetcars

One of the Toronto streetcars — quite easy to get around town on them

As to the Toronto, I left incredibly impressed. I ended up staying in Toronto an extra week after the blogging conference, staying in the apartment of my friend, Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic, who was down in Ecuador. The extra time allowed me to wander around a bit and get a better feel for the city.

I am prone to like cities with good public transportation systems and Toronto’s qualifies. The subway system is not overly extensive, but it is supported by streetcars (I love streetcars and trams, as you can actually see the city as you travel around, unlike a subway) and buses that make it everywhere you’d like to go.

toronto skyline with cn tower

The iconic CN Tower in the Toronto skyline

It also has the feeling of a a series of small towns within a big city, another attribute that I like in a city. Ayngelina’s neighborhood was on the east side of town, but only a 15-20 minute streetcar ride right into downtown. Her neighborhood was great — 3-4 story buildings, cafes, bars, small shops. Exactly the kind of place I’d like to live.

And the downtown part of Toronto is not the type of downtown typical in the States, where everything is dead after 6 p.m. There are some great places to go out in the downtown area, for food, drinks and dancing, and we managed to have quite the time while we were there.

michael hodson at tbex toronto

Because my parents complain there are never any photos of me on my site

So, to briefly explain the above photo, there was a party Saturday night as part of the TBEX blogging conference in town. Unbeknownst to me until the day before, it was a theme party: “come as your favorite star.” I ran off to a costume shop in town the day of the event with my costume-picking helper and came up with Austin Powers as my designated look for the night.

I am hopeful that part of my costume is now touring the world. The middle photo is of me with Courtney Scott, the fabulous host of the Let’s Roam Travelocity video series and also the caretaker to the Roaming Gnome. Those glasses on his face are mine and I hear that there may be more pictures out there with them on him.

Ya gotta get famous somehow and that’s likely as close as I will ever get.

bw person on toronto subway

Continuing my fascination with all things train — random woman on the Toronto subway train

tree painted with hug me and game of cones sign from toronto canada

You have to love a city with a sense of humor… and who doesn’t just need a hug sometimes?

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Additional thanks to FlightNetwork for being one of the sponsors for the BlogHouse.

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

14 Responses to “My surprising love of the big city of Toronto” Subscribe

  1. Andrea June 24, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Never been to Toronto but I hope to visit some family there soon. Sounds like a cool town!

  2. Ayngelina June 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Must have been a great apartment.

  3. Caroline Eubanks June 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    Good to see you, as always. I am also surprised at how much I liked Toronto, particularly Kensington Market where I was staying.

  4. Melissa June 25, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Even though I’ve never lived in Toronto, I have a soft spot in my heart for it and and it makes me happy when new visitors also find its charms. In Canada, Toronto is the city people love to hate.

    I learned so much at BlogHouse and I think that the energizing effect was mutual. I have so many ideas and plans now, not to mention a few new friends. :)

  5. Cam @ Traveling Canucks June 25, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    It was great connecting again in Toronto Michael!

    Cute kid in that photo :-)

  6. robin June 25, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    I just came back from Toronto a couple of weeks ago – although I had a TERRIBLE time, I still love the city. Wish I had more time to explore

  7. Steph | A Nerd At Large June 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Thank you again for all of your sage advice at BlogHouse. I love being around people like you who call it like they see it. Delighted to hear that you enjoyed Toronto so much and had time to explore some of my old stomping grounds.

    I didn’t get to tell you on the night how cool your costume was. I took easy way out and work a cocktail dress, fully prepared to tell anyone who asked that I was dressed as a Bond Girl, but you get Brownie points for doing it up right. The glasses comment also explains a lot. I had a totally geektastic picture taken with the Roaming Gnome the next day, in which he is sporting your epic specs.

    http://instagram.com/p/aFSGuHneZQ/

  8. Pete June 26, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    Game of Cones, haha! I should suggest this sign toGreg. Toronto is a beautiful city, I like how you noticed that it’s like a million cities within a city. I love its diversity.

  9. Robert Morales June 28, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    I was in Toronto one week too late for TBEX, bad planning on my part. I was there as part of a road trip that took me to Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City. Loved Toronto and will definitely return soon. The public transportation is great especially if you purchase an all day pass. The views from the Toronto island ferry are spectacular. On that same token, I think going up to the CN Tower is overpriced and overrated. Mill Street Brewery in the Distillery District, yum! tasty beer and poutine… I better stop now.
    Always enjoy your blog posts and would love to meet you some day and attend a BlogHouse.
    Cheers.

    Robert from Miami

  10. Jim June 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    TBEX was my first visit to Toronto, and I really enjoyed it as well. I’ll definitely have to make it back up when I have more time to explore.

    On a slightly unrelated note, it was great finally meeting you during TBEX.

  11. Bruce Bishop June 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Glad to hear you liked my adopted city of Toronto where I lived from 1979 to 2004 and where it inspired me to become a freelance travel writer & author in 1994. It was a successful career that sustained me for ten years! I will always love the city and enjoy every one of my visits back to my second home.

  12. Amanda July 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I’m with you on Toronto being on my short list. Which surprised me, too, to be honest. But I could totally picture myself living there someday.

  13. Andrew Davison July 24, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    Toronto is a beautiful city and I was lucky enough to live there for a few months last year. Like you I wasn’t expecting much but ended up missing it when I left.

    For me, because the metro system was so frustratingly bad I was forced above ground and learned to navigate the city on foot… Queen Street, Beaches, Little Italy, Chinatown… I found something interesting in all of them and filled up my Instagram feed accordingly.

    I also managed to visit every single museum and gallery in Toronto… but that’s another story :-)

    • Michael Hodson August 1, 2013 at 6:36 am #

      The metro system there does seem a little limited, but because the overground stuff is so good, it doesn’t end up mattering that much.

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